Making a plan for your Hifz can be a difficult and daunting task. Your task shouldn’t be focused on the “goal” but it should be focused on creating a system. A system that will help you keep going. This is a type of intentional planning.
There are three different types of Hifz planning you should have in place to create this system.
- An overall schedule – This is an overall commitment and plan detailing what you will memorise day to day. For example, you want to memorise in 3 years and you figure out how to get there. This is your overall goal.
- A day schedule – This is what your day will look like, when and where will you memorise and revise Qur’ān? This is a routine.
- A Hifz schedule – This is where you detail what you do during your memorisation and revision sessions. An example of this is the Takrār method. This is the process.
In this article, I’ll share with you a process of creating a Hifz plan like this with a focus on how to create a system for your Hifz goals.
An Introduction to Qur’ān Memorisation Goal Setting
Before we begin, it’s important to understand some fundamentals.
The reason that I emphasise the system is that for Qur’ān memorisation a long-term approach is vital. For anything that is long-term to the extent that it is lifelong, you must have a habit system. From Hadīth, we learn to:
“Take on only as much as you can do of good deeds, for the best of deeds is that which is done consistently, even if it is little.” [Ibn Majāh] and that “The most beloved of deeds to Allāh are those that are most consistent, even if it is small”. [al-Bukhārī and Muslim]
The Beloved Prophet ﷺ is teaching us the wisdom of habit. Habits are things we do consistently and more dependably. Good habits sustain you and are full of blessings. In light of the above Hadith, our understanding is that there is nothing that will change your future trajectory like habits.
But there’s a difference between goals and habits that go beyond language. Each requires different forms of action. For example, we all want to memorise the Qur’ān. We could either decide we want to be a Hāfidh in twelve months (goal), or we could commit to 30 minutes of practice each day (habit). We might want to read more Qur’ān. So we could set the goal to read one Qur’ān a week, or we could decide to always carry a book with us (habit).
We might want to spend more time with our families. We could plan to spend seven hours a week with them (goal), or we could choose to eat dinner with them each night (habit).
From a young age, we are taught to set goals. This starts with our school grades and academic achievements. After that, it’s our careers, our health and lives. It’s everywhere. Very few do it well. The truth is that goal-setting is a craft that isn’t for everyone.
Common problems with goal-setting
- Goals have an endpoint. This is why many people revert to their previous state after achieving a certain goal. People run marathons, then stop exercising altogether afterwards. Others reach a goal weight, only to spoil their progress by overeating to celebrate.
- Goals rely on factors which we do not always have control over. It’s an unavoidable fact that reaching a goal is not always possible, regardless of effort. An injury might derail a fitness goal. etc
- Goals rely on willpower and self-discipline. Willpower takes effort for most people. So keeping a goal in mind and using it to direct our actions requires constant willpower. During times when other parts of our lives deplete our supply of willpower, it can be easy to forget our goals. For example, the goal of saving money requires self-discipline each time we make a purchase. Meanwhile, the habit of putting a certain amount in a savings account every week requires little effort. Habits, not goals, make otherwise difficult things easy.
- Goals can make us complacent or even reckless. Studies have shown that people’s brains can confuse goal setting with achievement. This effect is more pronounced when people inform others of their goals. Furthermore, unrealistic goals can lead to harmful behaviour.
- Too many goals can creep up. They can be too loose, weak, and unstructured. They can be lacking clear process actions and are unfit for certain environments (you can’t be consistent).
Habits Are For Everyone
Habit lies between knowledge, skill, and desire. Once formed, habits can operate automatically. Habits take otherwise difficult tasks—like saving money—and make them easy.
The purpose of a well-crafted set of habits is to ensure that we reach our goals with incremental steps. The benefits of a systematic approach to achievement include the following:
- Habits can mean we overshoot our goals. Our goal is to memorise the Qur’ān. We can decide to memorise 2 lines a day so it could take us 12 years. Memorising 2 lines a day takes little effort, and even on the busiest, most stressful days, the person can get it done. However, on some days, that small step can lead to memorising 15 or more lines. As a result, we’d finish in much less time. Yet setting “memorise the Qur’ān in twelve months” as a goal could have been intimidating.
- Habits are easier to complete. Once we develop a habit, our brains actually change to make the behaviour easier to complete. After about 40 days of practice, enacting a habit becomes easier than not doing so.
- Habits are for life. I always stress to teachers and students of Qur’ān that the architecture of life is habit. Once a habit becomes ingrained, it can last for a lifetime (unless we break it). Our lives are structured around habits, many of them barely noticeable. According to Duhigg’s research (The Power of Habit), habits make up 40% of our waking hours. These often minuscule actions add up to make us who we are. William James (a man who knew the problems caused by bad habits) summarised their importance as such: “All our life, so far as it has definite form, is but a mass of habits — practical, emotional, and intellectual — systematically organized for our weal or woe, and bearing us irresistibly toward our destiny, whatever the latter may be.” Once a habit becomes ingrained, it can last for life (unless broken for some reason).
- Habits can compound. In other words, building a single habit can have a wider impact on our lives. Duhigg calls these keystone habits. These are behaviours that cause people to change related areas of their lives. For example, people who start exercising daily may end up eating better and drinking less. Likewise, those who quit a bad habit may end up replacing it with a positive alternative.
- Habits can be as small as necessary. A common piece of advice for those seeking to build a habit is to start small. As we covered in the course, Stanford psychologist BJ Fogg recommends “tiny habits,” such as flossing ones tooth. Once these become ingrained, the degree of complexity can be increased. If you want to read more, you can start with 25 pages a day. After this becomes part of your routine, you can increase the page count to reach your goal.
Why Systematic Approach Works
By switching our focus from achieving specific goals to creating positive long-term habits, we can make continuous improvement a way of life. This is evident from the documented habits of many successful people.
While goals rely on extrinsic motivation, habits are automatic. They literally rewire our brains. When seeking to attain something in our lives, we would do well to invest our time in forming positive habits, rather than concentrating on a specific goal.
Ultimately, the question to ask yourself isn’t what should be my goal with absolute clarity. Rather, we should ask ourselves is my goal worth it? What are the micro-goals that I can set? Or is it better that I create a system to achieve what I want because systems are easier to manage?
Hifz Goal Setting: A New Framework
Since we struggle with our goals and lack a healthy habit system, we need a healthy goal-setting system. A system is dynamic and iterative with a system that is fixed.
Let me break it down.
Step 1: Create A Foundation of Three Pillars
In the first step, you need to establish three core pillars that you’ll build your goals around. For a general day-to-day goal setting-framework this might be:
These would cover three core areas of focus that affect all major areas of life. But you can go more narrow and focused. For your Hifz goals, your core pillars of focus would be:
- Memorisation (Islām)
- Revising and connecting (Imān)
- Mastery (Ihsān)
Within each pillar you choose, you will have three:
- A big ambitious goal (BAG): A big, bold goal.
- A connected medium-term goal: an interim goal on the path to your BAG.
- 2-3 daily process goals: daily actions and habits.
You can’t do anything else. That’s all you’re allowed.
Step 2: Identifying your BAG
Your big ambitious goal is exactly that. Think of this as a goal that is so big that it can keep you going in trying to chase it for life. It’s your star in the sky that you’re trying to get closer to. You only have one BAG within a pillar.
Write them down, do whatever works. Alongside this, write down your intentions for the goal. Remind yourself of these all the time.
An example: Half of the Qur’ān by the end of the year (in memorisation).
This is great for a vision but terrible for guiding the short and medium-term actions you need to take.
Step 3: Work Backwards
So to manage the short-to-medium term, you should work backwards from the BAG to identify one medium-term goal that is connected to it.
So if you imagine your year as a mountain and your BAG is the summit, the connected medium-term goal would be likened to a mid-climb campsite. You can’t reach the summit without reaching this point. Every road will lead directly through this.
If your BAG is annual goal, you may want to establish a new connected medium-term goal on a rolling basis. You don’t need to plan ahead of time. Be dynamic and flexible about it.
An example: I will split my year into four quarters with each quarter having a med-term goal of completing 3.5 Juz’.
Step 4: Create Your Process Goals
This is the key to the whole process and framework. If you get this right, you will be on the right path. Your BAG and medium-term connected goals are goal and results-focused. The process goals are inputs-focused. These are your daily deposits and actions that will grow to create long-term results.
You need to think about 2-3 daily actions that you would need to take to create tangible consistent progress. These should be simple. For example, let’s say you have a focus area of writing. Your process goal should be 30 minutes of daily focused writing.
These are most effective when they are fixed to a time or action that makes them easy to structure and regiment (habit stacking). For example, you’ll write 30 minutes before bed.
Don’t create anything more than three in a given pillar. You don’t want to overwhelm yourself. An example: I will memorise after ‘Ishā’ prayer for 1 hour.
Step 5: Track and Adjust
Your daily process goals should be easy to track and adjust. There are people who have huge calendars up on their walls and use red markers to put an X over every day they complete a task. Some use a calendar, leverage community to hold them accountable, use spreadsheets or apps to track things. Some will keep a bullet journal. Whatever it is, you need a way to allow yourself to adjust as needed along the way.
Many of us make goals and then when a day or more arrives where it breaks, we give up. What this system says is that doesn’t matter. Recognise that you will need to adjust.
- You might need to make downward adjustments – maybe you were too ambitious with your daily processes.
- You might need to make environmental adjustments where your environment might be unsuited to your goals.
The best thing you can do is to have a teacher and a weekly check-in system.
An example for pillar: memorisation
- BAG: I want to memorise half of the Qur’ān by the end of the year.
- Connected: I’ll be at 3.5 Juz’ every three months.
- Daily: 60 minutes memorising after ‘Ishā’ prayer. Listen to Qur’ān on my commutes to and from work.
An example for pillar: revision
- BAG: I want to be able to recite every Juz’ from memory in my Salāh without aid.
- Connected: Revise a Juz’ daily by Q1, Revise a 1/4 of a Juz’ daily through Salāh by Q2, Revise a 1/2 of a Juz’ daily through Salāh by Q3, Revise a 3/4 of a Juz’ daily through Salāh by Q4.
- Daily: Revise for 60 minutes every AM. Perform extra Nawāfil at dhuhr, maghrib and ‘Ishā’ and a revision tool. Listen to 15 minutes of tafsīr on 1.5x speed.
An example for pillar: mastery
- BAG: I want to be able to recite every Juz’ from memory with a maximum of 3 mistakes.
- Connected: Reduce mistakes every quarter until I get to a minimum of 3. Participate in competitions.
- Daily: Test myself randomly and recite to someone else.
These are the foundational steps to get started.
Refining and checking if you can do it
Now that you have specific goals and processes, you need to check if you can make them happen. Can you fit in the daily process goals? Can you fit in the pillars?
A good starting point is to take some time out and look at your current commitments and schedule. You can begin to adjust things from there.
After this, follow the starters guide in approaching your memorisation. You’ll want to figure out your starting point for Hifz itself.
What about the hifz schedule?
The most basic process for this will be as follows:
- Choose a Qur’ān that you will use
- Note the number of pages per Juz’
- Note the number of lines per page
- Note the number of pages in the Qur’ān
- Figure out how many days you can commit to memorisation in the year and minus out any days you could possibly miss (illness, events, travel, emergency etc). This will give you a number of days that you will have in the year to memorise.
- You can now divide that into the number of pages you want to memorise in the year. This will give you a figure of how many pages you need to memorise each day to realise that goal. It will show you whether you need to adjust your goals or not.
- Now that you know how much you need to memorise daily, you need to figure out when and how you’ll do it. Keep it simple. Set days and times.
- Factor in time for revision.
- Get started.
- Alternatively, you might want to follow a pre-determined schedule (Takrār, Duraid, etc) to memorise if you’re able to do it.
I pray this article gives you something to think about and is of benefit.
May Allāh facilitate ease and blessing in your journey!2 - Like and share!